Orioles Profiles

April 25, 1995


* His role: That depends entirely on Fernandez and how much his new-found conditioning helps him. When he's at his best, Fernandez can be nasty for hitters, his fastball riding up and his slider breaking in. Phil Regan wants Fernandez to start between Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald in the rotation. When Fernandez is struggling -- and he did in 1994 -- he has trouble pitching six quality innings.

* What '95 means to him: A big year, really, for his peace of mind. Fernandez has been told by doctors and trainers and managers and coaches for years that he needs to lose weight, and he did that in the off-season, dropping 40 pounds. Pitching poorly could weigh on him. He needs to be rewarded for his hard work.

* X-factor: The other pitchers around him. If Mussina, McDonald, Kevin Brown and Arthur Rhodes throw deep into games, consistently pitching seven or eight innings, then Regan could use his bullpen to help Fernandez that much more.

* Statistically speaking: Over the past five years, only one pitcher in the majors has held opponents to a lower batting average than Fernandez's .212 (Seattle Mariners' Randy Johnson, .210).

* Age: 32. * Height: 6-1. * Weight: 225. * Bats: Left. * Throws: Left.

* His role: He'll be the everyday third baseman, and there won't be any controversy, as there was last year with Chris Sabo. Manager Phil Regan will hit him eighth, thinking that he could drive in a fair share of runs with his doubles and homers.

* What '95 means to him: This is his job. Now, he needs to produce.

* X-factor: The Orioles appear stronger through the middle of the order, with Harold Baines, Chris Hoiles and Andy Van Slyke hitting ahead of Gomez. That should give him lots of RBI opportunities.

* Statistically speaking: Gomez batted .362 against ground-ball pitchers, those who predominantly keep the ball down in the strike zone, and .096 against fly-ball pitchers, those who keep the ball high in the zone.

* Age: 28. * Height: 6-0. * Weight: 208. * Bats: Right. * Throws: Right.

* His role: That all depends upon his surgically reconstructed right knee. If he's healthy, the Orioles could come to rely on him. He's been talked about as a potential leadoff hitter, and his talent is unquestioned. But if he's hurting, everything changes. His uncertain status is part of the reason why the Orioles signed Andy Van Slyke and Kevin Bass.

* What '95 means to him: Could mean a lot if he plays, but there's not a whole lot Hammonds can do if his knee is not healed, other than to look ahead. Nobody doubts that, one day, he will hit and could be an impact player. It's just a question of when. Maybe it will be in 1995.

* X-factor: The knee and Hammonds' ability to trust the healing process. He said in the first days of spring training that he was nervous about jumping and landing awkwardly, or making the wrong cut and blowing out the knee again. It'll be a year-long adjustment.

* Statistically speaking: Last year, he was much better leading off an inning (.352) than with runners in scoring position (.214). Also seemed to thrive in the No. 2 spot, batting .317. But before he hits at the top of the order, Regan will want him to increase his .339 on-base percentage of a year ago.

* Age: 24. * Height: 6-0. * Weight: 195. * Bats: Right. * Throws: Right.

* His role: The No. 1 catcher, now and possibly for several more years. During the off-season, Hoiles signed a five-year, $17.25 million contract. Hoiles could fill in at first base if Palmeiro takes a day off, or play a day or two as a designated hitter.

* What '95 means to him: Theoretically, he's in the prime of his career, with no reason to worry about his future in baseball or the organization. He just can go out and play.

* X-factor: If Matt Nokes is really swinging the bat well, Regan might want to play him against some tough right-handers, giving Hoiles a day off.

* Statistically speaking: In baseball parlance, Hoiles is what is known as a cripple hitter. He's adept at taking advantage of opposing pitchers when they are behind in the count: Hoiles hit ** .194 on the first pitch, .167 when he was behind in the count,

.193 with two strikes and .337 when he was ahead in the count.

* Age: 30. * Height: 6-0. * Weight: 213. * Bats: Right. * Throws: Right.

* His role: He will be the closer.

* What '95 means to him: Just another year in a rather unlikely career. The Orioles brought him in to fill in as closer until Armando Benitez is ready to finish games, but as Jones continues to get hitters out and Benitez struggles, some within the organization are glad the Orioles added an option for '96 to Jones' contract.

* X-factor: Benitez. If he finds himself, Jones could be moved out of the closer's job and into a setup role. Jones says either way is fine with him.

* Statistically speaking: Jones was much better facing right-handers last year (.179) than left-handers (.327), which should make for some interesting decisions when the Orioles face the Yankees and their predominantly left-handed lineup.

* Age: 37. * Height: 6-2. * Weight: 195. * Bats: Right. * Throws: Right.

* His role: Orosco will be the bullpen guy to pitch to tough left-handers. Bases loaded, one out in the eighth inning, Ken Griffey Jr. at the plate and the Orioles leading 5-3, Orosco will get the call.

* What '95 means to him: Since leaving the Dodgers in 1988, Orosco hasn't had much opportunity to pitch for competitive clubs. The past six years, he's pitched for the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers.

* The X-factor: If Brad Pennington develops quickly this year, he could press Orosco for his late-inning role.

* Statistically speaking: Over the past five years, Orosco actually has pitched better against right-handers than left-handers. Left-handers have hit .271, right-handers .226 since 1990. In 1994, left-handers batted .263, right-handers .195.

* Age: 38. * Height: 6-2. * Weight: 205. * Bats: Right. * Throws: Left.

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